Edited to add a warning: This story is VERY LONG and DETAILED. Mostly for the benefit of some of friends and family who are into reading this kind of thing. :)
Ok, I'll try to keep it brief. Might be hard as I'm still so excited about it all and when I get started I can't shut up!
Contractions started on Tuesday evening. They weren't too uncomfortable- just definitely stronger than they had been so I was keeping my fingers crossed that it was the real thing. At 9.30pm I decided it would be polite to call and give the midwife a heads up before everyone went to bed. In accordance with Murphy's Law, Melissa had just had a call from her other client (best friend) who was also in early labour. So I called Kate too.
So I slept lightly from about 10pm to midnight, then from midnight to 2am I listened to a hypnosis CD and then the radio before deciding I needed better music. So from 2am to about 4am I sat in front of the computer making playlists for my ipod. I started with chill out type music without words but soon found that each contraction (now much stronger) was easier to cope with if there was a cheesy, boppy pop song on that I could dance to. So a second playlist was made which turned out to be indispensible.
From 4am to 7am I slept between contractions while sitting up in a nest I made on my favourite sofa. It felt good to be doing it on my own and letting Steve and Brendan sleep. Last time Steve was up most of the night with me and I complained and made sure he knew how much it hurt etc. :) This time I was calm and just practiced breathing and coping with each contraction knowing they were going to get much stronger. I think my mindset was just different this time. I wasn't thinking about pain so they weren't really painful. I was thinking about what was happening and that it was a good thing- things were happening!
At 7am I noisily peeked in on Steve so he got up. We had breakfast and then I made a cheesecake (a proper one that you bake) and at 8.30am I tried Melissa to find she was attending the other birth, so I called Kate and told her about the night and that contractions were strong but only 6 minutes apart so maybe it was too early. She said she should come soon and see how things are. We had previously discussed that because I had had a previous C-section I should go to the hospital but that she was happy for me to stay at home until 8cm provided that progress and the baby's heart rate were both good.
Kate arrived at 9.30am, just as Emily also arrived to pick up Brendan- conveniently it was a Wednesday which is Emily's day off so she didn't have to skive off work.
Kate stayed till 11am checking the baby's heartrate and timing some contractions. They weren't getting any more regular so she went into town for a couple of hours and suggested that privacy and nipple stimulation might do the trick. She said that it is possible to go all the way with contractions never more often than 6 minutes apart but it is rare- more normally they would get closer- so I should call when things picked up a bit. I spent the time on the sofa listening to music through headphones with contractions getting stronger but remaining at 6 minutes apart. Kate called at 1pm and came back anyway and did my first internal check. I was worried that nothing was happening so when she said "and I'm touching your baby's head" and you're "a good 5cm" I was over the moon! Over the next two hours they got stronger and we tried the ball for a bit and then standing leaning on Steve. Listening to music and dancing a bit was great. Kate and Steve both put some counter pressure on my back and reminded me to relax all my muscles and breathe steadily. It never once occured to me that I might need something for the pain- I was so excited and happy- the 6 minute spacing continued which left lots of time to relax and enjoy between each one. I kept smiling after each contraction finished. :)
Two hours later at 3.30 Kate checked again and I was at 7 cm!! She said the membranes were intact but bulging so she suggested we go to the hospital because if the membranes suddenly break the last bit can be much quicker. I called the hospital to have the nurse say I was booked in for a C-section so I said uh, no, I am not, thanks... She said oh, sorry, my mistake... So we gathered stuff, got dressed, waited for another contraction to pass then got in the car. Even the contraction in the car wasn't nearly as bad as last time when we went to the hospital in a taxi when I was only three cms!
Kate waited downstairs and followed us up 5 minutes later (remember she was a "secret" midwife and we didn't want the hospital staff knowing she had been supporting us at home because of the current climate surrounding the introduction of midwifery in the province). So we went straight to a room and met our nurse, Carol. She put us on the monitor and I was worrying already that my contractions had eased off since we arrived at the hospital (this was a worry as it was what happened last time). I asked Steve to give her my birth plan and she took it out of the room with her. Kate and Steve played with all the lights to find a dim one and the monitor was annoying me so Steve just turned the volume off and told me to ignore it so I did.
Anyway, Carol came back in and asked a bunch of medical questions and then told me the issues with my birth plan. They recommended an IV just incase for VBACs so I had to refuse. She said they wouldn't get me to sign a refusal for that but I would have to sign one if I didn't agree to the continuous monitoring. I was already successfully ignoring it so I agreed to leave it on but said if it annoys me I'm taking it off. She also said that they don't like allowing a natural third stage and recommended I accept the oxytocin injection right after the birth. I said no thanks again but she brought it up again later.
Anyway, we got on with it for a couple of hours. Dr Adam popped in and said he wasn't sticking around so I was pretty happy about that. The monitor turned out not to be a big deal at all. I continued to listen to music while I leaned on Steve and Kate put counterpressure on my back. I mostly stood up and then tried kneeling over the back of the bed. Suddenly my body started to push and I couldn't breathe properly anymore. Dr Mills arrived around then and I had to really concentrate to look at her face as she introduced herself. So in the room there was now me, Steve, Kate, Carol, Dr Mills and a resident doctor called Dr. Bobby who looked about 16 years old. They were talking about how I sounded like I was pushing so Dr Bobby checked and said I still had a lip of cervix in the way so I should try not to push. Now that is easier said than done!! Whatever my brain said my body was pushing on its own so with Kate's help I tried to breathe through the pushing sensation and try not to help it. I was swearing a bit and told Steve he didn't have a clue how this felt. I was rude to Carol who was trying to tell me about the oxytocin injection and saying if I had excessive bleeding I'd end with IV drugs or something like that so I just said ok, just give it to me, I don't care... She also told me that I couldn't have both the baby on my chest AND leave the cord to stop pulsing- it was one or the other. I told her that was "rubbish" then apologised for being rude. She explained that the doctor would only let the cord stop pulsing if the baby remained at the level of the placenta and wasn't lifted higher. She said if I delivered lying on my side then the baby could be put right up next to me on the bed and we could leave the cord. I had wanted to deliver kneeling but after trying one or two contractions on the loo I lay on my side for Dr. Mills to check again and she said that I could push so I just stayed on my side and started pushing immediately. So suddenly things changed again and pushing felt like such a relief and really good compared to the last half hour or however long transition was. It felt like one long contraction and I was grateful that there was hardly any break between them as I just wanted to get on with it. At some point Kate started to hold a warm compress on my perineum and told me to stop pushing and breathe my baby out. I definitely felt a burning sensation and had Johnny Cash singing "ring of fire" in my head. It was so exciting and I remember them telling Steve he could look and see the baby's head and then Kate said I could reach and feel it and I felt a ridge like shape and said "what's that?" :) So his head was out and I looked down and remember thinking his head looked really small ?!? It seemed like a really short pause and then I was pushing again and he plopped out and was put up next to me. Steve says I basically rolled over on top of him and cuddled him and kept everyone else off him. I was totally over the moon, can't describe it. It wasn't long before the cord stopped pulsing and Steve clamped and cut it, and then I lifted him up onto my chest and a blanket was put over us and a wee hat put on his head. The placenta came out shortly after with a little push and we had a good look at it. Then Dr. Bobby put two stitches in a small tear. Carol's shift was ending so she introduced Bridget(?). Tadhg was beautifully awake and alert and took to the boob really well. Kate helped- it is really strange trying to feed a newborn again after being used to feeding a toddler (Brendan stopped at 16 months) Then all the medical people left and Kate left for a few minutes too and it was just the three of us cuddling and Steve cried and I cried some more and it was just perfect. I was so enthralled by Tadhg but also so happy to have managed the natural birth that had been so important to me. Steve and Kate were full of praise too and I was just floating on a cloud- incredible.
Anyway, Kate came back and asked if we wanted to go home. I said I'd love to but thought they'd say no, but you don't know if you don't ask, so when Bridget came back in I asked, she checked with Dr Mills and said no problem, we just had to see the paediatrician first. 1 hour and 15 minutes after he was born, Steve took Tadhg to get weighed and checked over while I went for a shower. When he told me that he weighed 9lb 12 oz I was surprised- I had been sure he was smaller than Brendan (9lb 4oz)
Kate stayed with us for a while before going home at 9 ish, then Steve left to get the car seat. I just rested and cuddled Tadhg. We saw the paediatrician at 11pm, left straight after and we were curled up in our own bed by midnight. And I can't finish without including Brendan. Emily brought him home at about 7.30 in the morning and he went through to the bedroom to meet his new baby brother. He held him and stroked him and poked him a bit, pointing out and naming body parts but all in all he seemed to like him!